Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks

Viktor Hartmann’s sketch of unhatched canary chicks for a ballet called Trilby or The Demon of the Heath made its way, in musical form, into Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (1874). While written originally for piano, I suspect many of us were introduced to the work through Ravel’s orchestration. From that perspective, listening to the original piano version offers several orders of revelation.

It was fascinating, in David Nice’s Russian music class #6, to get insights into the work and what it takes to perform it from both David and pianist Samson Tsoy. Here is Tsoy, in a segment that includes the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks.

Sergei Prokofiev is one of many who have performed Pictures at an Exhibition. David noted that, at one time, Prokofiev and his wife Lina possessed their own incubator and hatched chicks. Listen as Prokofiev brings his up close and personal knowledge to bear on this performance:

For an entirely different musical rendering of unhatched chicks, here’s a performance in Ravel’s orchestration:

Last, not least, here’s Sviatoslav Richter performing the whole of  Pictures at an Exhibition in London, 1968:



I Have Only Just A Minute

I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me
to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.
Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.

—Anonymous (attributed to Dr. Benjamin E. Mays)

Svetik Savishna” takes a little over a minute to perform—but just listen to what’s packed in it: Continue reading